| Seminar Report on Initiative
for State-building and constitution making process
Nawalparasi (12-13 Sep 2008) and Bhairhawa
(13-14 Sep 2008)
By Chandra D Bhatta
Introducing the Programme
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) - a German
Political Foundation has organised training-programme on 'Modern
State-building and Constitution-making Process' in Nawalparasi
and Bhairhawa. The programme was attended, among others, by
political leaders of all political parties (including Maoist),
academicians, teachers, NGO personnel, members of civil society,
students, government officials, youths, and representatives
of trade unions and other stakeholders of society. There were
150 participants in Nawalparasi and 120 plus in Bhairhawa. A
good number of women participated in both places. The programme
was chaired by respective judges of the district court (Mr Kashinath
Pokharel in Nawalparasi and Narayan Prasad Dhital in Bhairahawa).
High ranking government officials present in the district took
part in both places. Likewise, head of the District Police Office
and personnel from Nepal Army also attended the programme in
both the places.
The main objective of the programme was to
educate people at the peripheral level on state-building and
issues underpinning constitution-making process in order to
enable them to participate in the political process meaningfully.
Moreover, one of the main thrust of this programme, among others,
is to bridge the societal gap between different societal groups,
regions and bring them into the common platform so that problems
of all societal groups, regions could be identified and brought
into the forefront for their inclusion into the polity in order
to address them in a peaceful way.
Head of FES in Nepal - Mr. Dev Raj Dahal presented
a paper on State and shed light on the basic tenets of state-building.
Mr Dahal touched upon different facets such as political, cultural,
religious, economic, foreign policy, electoral and many other
issues that impinge state-building process in Nepal. Mr Dahal
set the scene for the two days seminar and also discussed about
current state of political affairs in the country. Similarly
Mr Kashi Raj Dahal presented his paper on federalism and constitution-making
process in the country. Mr Dahal stressed that political leaders
and law of the land should protect interest of citizens. Another
presenter Chandra D. Bhatta introduced hands-out on democracy.
The central theme of hands-out on democracy was to consolidate
rule of law and introduce civic education at different layers
of society. This will help to construct civic citizenship and
prelude the culture of peace and reconciliation. Mr Bhatta also
talked about the role of civil society in post-conflict societies.
He said that civil society could play a crucial role both in
writing a democratic constitution and guiding peace-process
to the logical end.
All three presentations on state, constitution
and civil society did spark very crucial questions. What has
been experienced in Nawalparasi and Bhairhawa is that a great
deal of emphasis was laid on Education Policy, Land Reform,
Secularism and Federalism. Almost all the participants in Nawalparasi
were against dual education policy (private versus public) of
the state and wanted to get rid of this.
On Education - Majority of the participants
wanted to know the ways to get rid of private education system
in the country which they feel is not serving the interest of
the state and citizen. Similarly one Mr Rajeshwor Pathak from
Nepali Congress in Nawalparasi district has suggested that primary
education (from class 1 to class 3) should be provided in local
language, secondary education (from class 4 to 7) should be
provided in national language, secondary level education (from
class 8 to 10) should be provided both in national and English
language and higher education (from class 11 and beyond) should
be provided English language. By and large, many participates
were of the view that primary education should be provided in
local language as it will help to protect local languages and
cultural values. Participants were also expressed their views
on the necessity of scientific practical (vocational) education
in the country so that students get some sort of self-sufficiency
once they graduate.
On Land Reform - majority of the participants
argued that there has to be provision to impose property tax
(that is more property more tax) on buildings of Kathmandu and
Pokhara as owners of these palatial buildings are earning hefty
amount in the form of rent but paying a meager amount of tax
to the government. They argued that how long government will
keep on 'distributing our land' so we need to have some sort
of scientific mechanism on land reform. One Mr Anil Kumar from
Madeshi Janaadhikar Form (Nawalparasi) has said that some people
own more than fifty buses but don't pay tax; many people have
money in the foreign banks but no tax. Hence, he argued that,
property valuation is must rather than eying on our land.
On Secularism - many people expressed their
resentment on Nepal declaring a secular state without understanding
people's sentiment. One Dr. Dhakal in Bhirahawa have deep reservations
on this. He said that why Nepal has been declared secular state
despite majority of Nepali being Hindus. If we are to adopt
majority principle, we probably should hold referendum on this
issue. Nepali state has failed to protect its culture and religion
which is also the major objective of the state. Hindu religion
has played a crucial role in terms of national integration (bridge
between hill and terai). Rather than declaring Nepal a secular
state, the constitution should have remained silent on this
issue as there is no need to have any particular religion of
the state said one participant in Bhairahawa.
On Federalism - Majority participants from
the Teraian party have said that federalism is must, Madesh
belongs to Madeshi and Madheshis sentiments/feelings should
be respected by the state. State should provide education, health,
housing etc free of cost. Majority of the participants have
said that Nepal's federalism should be able to protect our religion,
culture, and identity. Many participants in Bhairahawa wanted
to know about the basis of federalism (what type of semi, cooperative
or any other model of governance) and merits and demerits.
Moreover, many issues such as language, health, employment,
youths, rights of women and dalits, rule of law, democratization
of political parties, non-state actors and issues related to
agriculture and challenges they are posing to the state were
raised in the seminar.
What can be drawn from these two seminars
is that people are more concerned about policy related issues
such as education, land reform, secularism, federalism and others.
They wanted political leaders to change their behaviour in order
to resolve problems scientifically rather than in a hotchpotch
manner. The worry expressed at the rural areas on national issues
and their faith on democracy, nationalism is noteworthy. We
can conclude that the political consciousness is very high in
each and every layer of society but political responsibility